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Rustic Oat-Crusted Herring

If you’re looking for hearty peasant food rather than something elegant, consider this tasty Scottish recipe. Small fish such as herring or sardines are perfect for making this dish, or you could even try mackerel, croakers, dabs or similar. If you make friends with your local fishmonger, perhaps he will remove the bones for you. If you have to do it yourself, cut along the underside and hit the backbone a few times. Next, pull the backbone out along with as many of the bones as you can. Now scrape the scales off using a knife, and discard the heads and tails. It’s easy to fillet herrings, I promise you!

The flavour is really nice, and you will find the mustard cuts through the richness of the fish. The oats make me think of cosy autumn or winter. The traditional Scottish way of serving oat-crusted herring is mashed or boiled potatoes or thick slices of bread and butter, although modern cookbooks featuring this recipe suggest lemon and parsley, or even crispy bacon (yum, we like that idea!)

My family loves creamy mashed potatoes on the side, and plenty of them, but sometimes bread and butter is good too. You don’t need many ingredients for this tasty Scottish recipe so you can rustle it up quickly when you want something hot and tasty to eat for lunch or dinner. The herring fillets are covered in salt then soaked in a creamy mustard mixture. They are then coated in oats and pan-fried until crispy. Herring and oats are both Scottish staples, so it makes sense to combine them and make this wonderful rustic dish. Give it a try and see how it compares to your family’s usual crispy fish dinner. I bet you’re going to love it! This recipe serves 2 people but it’s easy to make more if you’re feeding a crowd.

Herring with an Oat Crust
Summary: Herring fillets are prepared with salt, cream, mustard and oats, then pan-fried until hot and crispy. This simple fish dish is perfect with potatoes or bread and butter.
Cuisine: Scottish
Recipe type: Main Course
Serves: 2
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 230g (½ lb) herring fillets (filets)
  • Salt, as needed
  • 125 ml (½ cup) single cream (light cream) or milk
  • 125 ml (½ cup) smooth prepared mustard
  • 90g (1½ cups) coarse porridge oats (pinhead oatmeal)
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) oil, lard or butter
  1. Rinse the fish fillets, then salt them well.
  2. Let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes for the salt to soak in.
  3. Now stir the cream or milk with the mustard until blended.
  4. Dip the herring into this mixture to submerge.
  5. Leave the fish in the mustard for up to an hour (or at least 10 minutes).
  6. Pulse the oats in a blender or food processor until most are broken up.
  7. Some should still be recognizable as oats while others should be powdery, so don't over-process them.
  8. Next heat the oil, lard or butter in a skillet over a moderate to high heat.
  9. Dredge the fish in the oat mixture and sauté for 2 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden.
  10. Drain on kitchen roll (paper towels), then serve hot with your favourite side dishes.

Photo Description:

Most home cooks have made crispy fish fillets before, but this recipe is deliciously different. Rather than the usual breadcrumbs or batter, we are using oats to give the herring a typically Scottish twist. Mustard and either cream or milk are also used for flavour, and to give the oats something to stick to. You can pan-fry the fish in oil, lard or butter, and you will be able to see when it’s done. The herring will be beautifully crispy and golden brown. I like to fry some bacon in the pan too and serve it with the fish – it goes really well with it, but then doesn’t bacon go with everything?

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Christine Szalay-Kudra

Hi, my name is Christine and I would like to welcome you to TeaTime Recipes. Tea has always been a favourite of mine and I adore the tradition of serving this wonderful beverage with all kinds of little snacks both sweet and savoury. Read More